Sporting Hero – Brian Clough

 

251 goals in 274 senior appearances.
2 League Championships
2 (Successive) European Cups.
44 days in charge of Leeds United.

Short and sweet, however as a certain gentleman once said; “Rome wasn’t built in a day. But I wasn’t on that particular job.”

In a cunning segue from my piece on characters in sport that are a dying breed, I thought I would take the time to speak to you about my sporting hero, the legendary Brian Clough. Many of you won’t need reminding of his achievements on and off the pitch or indeed you will not need me to go into much depth about the alleged dark side of his nature as Brian Clough, for right or wrong is part of the national consciousness.

As a child of the 1980’s especially one who was developing a passion for football which was elsewhere non-existent in my family, I had to get my fix of football from wherever I could which is how I came to love Brian Clough. The only real-time I got to watch football of any quality was if we went round to my Granddad’s house in County Durham.

As a family ritual we would go on a Saturday morning and all of my male cousins (and sometimes annoyingly the female ones) would congregate around the wood encased TV to watch football focus with Des Lynam.

On one occasion I turned up and everyone in the room started calling my Nigel. Confused (and a little upset that I may have been adopted) I asked why, until I saw on the screen an image of Nigel Clough, who I had to agree look a little like me.

So from then on it came to be that Brian Clough was my dad. It became a little bit of an obsession with me from trying to read every fact about him (Sunderland’s best goals to games ratio yet and unlikely ever to be beaten 63 in 68 games, which only strengthened the fact that he could be my father…where was he born?), to buying a pea green umbro sweatshirt and turning up the collar of my polo shirt to create the old Big ‘ead look.

Cloughie also satisfies my credentials as a hero as he possessed great talent which was ultimately unfulfilled due to a sickening collision with Bury keeper Chris Harker on Boxing Day 1962. He also had a side to his nature which many saw as dark and conspiring, but one which I estimate to be supreme self-confidence to the point where he saw no point of his downfall. And the drinking probably didn’t help.

Wonderful stories and anecdotes bubbled to the surface after the book and subsequent film of David Peace’s ‘The Damned United’, which has been derided for the content by Clough’s family and members of the Leeds United team of which the story was concerning.

One of my personal favourites was during the season when Derby County were fined £10,000 and banned from Europe in 1971 for financial irregularities, one of the Derby backroom staff recalled seeing Brian and his assistant Peter Taylor dragging bin liners stuffed full of cash around the offices of the Baseball Ground, not knowing what to do with all of the surplus cash the club had somehow amassed.

Another one was just before the 1979 League cup final against Southampton when Clough made all of the team stay up till “at least” two in the morning drinking anything they could get their hands on.

Archie Gemmill went to go up to bed and Clough threatened to discipline him if he didn’t stay and carry on the party. Final score? 3-2 Forest. Brilliant.

The ultimate sad fact was that Clough didn’t appreciate change and as such as the 1980’s drew on his teams never emulated the great heights of the successes seen in Munich and Madrid.

As years of well documented alcohol abuse took their toll (and even a new liver long before George Best made it popular) he became a shadow of his former self and he sadly died in 2004 in Derby of stomach cancer.

A man like Brian Clough will not be seen again in modern football. The prolific scoring may have been due to lacklustre defences, but will also have had something to do with the fact he was as crafty in the box as he was in the transfer market.

The uber-professionalism that big business soccer has succumbed to today means that decking your holding midfielder at half time for daring to pass a ball back to the goalkeeper “he got back up so I couldn’t have hit him that hard” (A Mr. R. Keane if anybody is interested) will result in the manager being sacked for being flippant enough to motivate a player whose contract is worth more than the debt of East Africa.

If, as he did back in 1989, slapped several home fans for invading the pitch, he may have received a six-inch blade to the gut rather than the customary touch-line ban he actually got.

So there it is a brief summary on why I love Brian Clough, and why you should as well. Or we could talk about it for twenty minutes, and decide I’m right.

God Bless.

By Brian T. Mair

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